Memeber of the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group are seen standing in an African desert. — File Photo by Reuters

CAIRO: Al Qaeda's branch in North Africa on Tuesday called for attacks on US diplomats and an escalation of protests against an anti-Islam video that was produced in the United States and triggered a wave of demonstrations and riots in the Middle East and beyond.

While demonstrations have tapered off in nations including Egypt and Tunisia, protests against the film turned violent in Pakistan and occupied Kashmir and hundreds of people rallied in Indonesia and Thailand.

In Kabul a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a mini-bus carrying South African aviation workers to the airport, killing at least 12 people in an attack that a militant group said was revenge for the film “Innocence of Muslims,” which was made by an Egyptian-born American citizen.

At least 10 protesters have died in riots in several countries, bringing the total number of deaths linked to unrest over the film to 22.

US officials describe the video as offensive, but the American government's protection of free speech rights has clashed with the anger of Muslims abroad who are furious over the blasphemous film.

In a statement, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb praised the killing of Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on Sept 11. The group threatened attacks in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania, and condemned the United States for “lying to Muslims for more than 10 years, saying its war was against terrorism and not Islam.''

The group urged Muslims to pull down and burn American flags at embassies, and kill or expel American diplomats to “purge our land of their filth in revenge for the honour of the Prophet (peace be upon him).''Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula recently issued a similar call for attacks on US diplomatic facilities. It is Al Qaeda's most active branch in the Middle East.

An Islamist militant group, Hizb-i-Islami, claimed responsibility for the attack in Kabul. The group is headed by 65-year-old former warlord Gubuddin Hekmatyar, a former Afghan prime minister and one-time US ally who is now listed as a terrorist by Washington. The militia has thousands of fighters and followers across the country's north and east.

In Pakistan, hundreds of angry protesters broke through a barricade outside the US Consulate in the northwest city of Peshawar, sparking clashes with police that left several wounded on both sides, said police officer Arif Khan.

In Srinagar, a strike shut down businesses and public transportation as marchers burned US flags and an effigy of President Barack Obama.

When the protesters tried to march into the main business district, police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse them, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. Protesters hurled rocks at the troops, he said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

An alliance of Kashmiri religious groups called the strike in response to the anti-Islam film. The shutdown was supported by the bar association, trade unions and separatist groups in the volatile region, where strikes are a common tactic to protest against Indian rule.

In Indonesia, about 200 people from various Islamic groups torched an American flag and tires outside the US Consulate in the third largest city of Medan. Some unfurled banners saying, “Go to hell America,” while others trampled on dozens of paper flags. Also Tuesday, about 100 Muslim students in Makassar, a city in central Indonesia, called for the death penalty against the filmmaker, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

Some 400 people protested peacefully outside the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand's capital. Protesters carried signs and banners saying, “We love Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)” and “Stop insulting our religion,” and chanted, “Down with America” and “Down with Israel.''

The government in Bangladesh blocked YouTube on Monday to prevent people from seeing the video. Mir Mohammaed Morshed, a spokesman for the state-run Bangladesh Telecommunications Company, said the decision will remain effective until further notice.

Google has blocked access to the video in Libya and Egypt following violence there, and in Indonesia and India because it says the video broke laws in those countries.—AP

Updated Sep 18, 2012 07:21pm

More From This Section

Comments (0) (Closed)